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An Easy Way To Get Better Images.

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There’s an old axiom on how to get better pictures.  It’s “stand in front of more interesting things”.  You’ve got to admit, today’s subject is “interesting”.  We were at a small, local Renaissance Faire on Saturday with some friends.  Places like a Ren Faire or Pirates Den or Indian Powwow  or Steam Punk Festival are always great stops for getting “character” shots.  Just stand there and let the parade waltz on by.  We had all manner of people walking past.  A guy with big under turned bull horns.  A woman with a cross between medieval and steam punk as a costume.  A woman with the top of her back fully tattooed.  When she turned around she was a very pretty woman (not the woman in today’s image).  A fellow with a large bulbous head he had “painted” (I’m sure it was some sort of theatrical makeup) white and then scribed it with veins.  Again, an interesting character.  A couple in full medieval dress renewing their wedding vows.  Priests, orks, fairies, warriors, princes, and kings (lots of kings – might be an ego thing).  There were somewhere between twenty and fifty characters I’d like to bring back to the studio and do some real portraits.  But, on the right day you can get some reasonable faces to work with.  To find the “trick” of getting better shots, hit the “Read More”.

First lets stick to “in camera”.  If you’re shooting JPGs, bring your exposure value (EV) down one third of a stop.  This tells the camera that it’s metered reading probably produces too bright an image.  It’ll result in a more color rich image.  If you’re shooting RAW images, bring your EV up two thirds of a stop.  This will push your histogram further to the right, resulting in a brighter image.  Just about all DSLRs have a button to push to see the current EV level.  Turn one of the adjustment dials to change the value.  If you use the Highlight Warning screen (the one that shows you “the blinkies”) look at what’s blinking.  If it’s something that’s important in the image, you went too far.  If it’s something unimportant, you’re fine.  In fact, when shooting RAW, you can probably recover (in post processing) a thin line along the right edge of the preview histogram screen.

One further thing to consider “in camera”.  Today’s camera can go to fairly high ISOs and not produce a lot of noise.  In post processing it’s easier to get rid of noise than it is to get rid of blur.  Adobe Photoshop (PS) does have a camera shake removal tool (Filter/Sharpen/Shake Reduction), but it’s better not to have camera shake (due to slow shutter speed) in the first place.  So, crank up the ISO by several stops.  A Nikon has a “normal” ISO of 200.  I shot most of the day with the ISO set to either 1600 or 3200 (three or four stops higher than “normal) without “objectionable” noise.  What noise there was was easily removed using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR).

So, what was done “in post”?  The biggest thing was done in the HSL Panel in LR.  Take another look at today’s image.  Do you see any green in the subject’s face or on her costume?  The answer for the face is (hopefully) no.  People’s skin (no matter which race) isn’t supposed to have green in it.  Green makes people look sickly.  In her costume she has very little green.  Makes it almost an ideal image for taking the green down.  The background was the woods (forest if you like) behind the woman.  Just taking the Green Luminance Slider all the way down darkens the entire background.  Typically, to adjust greens you’d also play with the Yellow Slider.  You need to be careful using that.  Yellow will also effect the skin tones.  Maybe a gentle negative nudge would work, but very gentle.  The Saturation Slider in the HSL Panel was also brought down a little, making the greens somewhat duller.

Darkening down the (basically) monotone background makes the foreground “automatically” pop.  In the case of today’s image there’s no masking involved.  The background color is “different enough” from any of the foreground colors to make it a one slider improvement.  Any of the other adjustments were just the normal tweaks you’d do to any image.

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